Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Giraffe's Incredible Journey

On this date, June 30, 1827, a giraffe - the gift from the Viceroy of Egypt to the King of France and the first giraffe ever in France - arrived in Paris after a two-year, four-thousand-mile trip. The giraffe sailed across the Mediterranean Sea to Marseilles in the hold of a boat with her head peaking out from below deck in the hold. From Marseilles she walked 550 miles to Paris. All the while she was accompanied by faithful keepers who climbed a ladder every night to comb her head (she was more than 12 feet tall). The beloved giraffe - who influenced French fashion and culture died on January 12, 1845, at Paris.
-The Teacher's Calendar, 2008-2009

Faulkner, Keith.
The Giraffe Who Cock-a-Doodle-Doo'd.
Dial Books for Young Readers.

Something strange has taken place in the jungle! When the jungle rooster awoke to greet the new day,
he fluffed up his feathers and opened his beak to cock-a-doodle-doo, out came an earth-shattering...
The lion, hearing the roar, decided to scare away the new lion in the jungle.
He opened his enormous jaws, but all that came out was a tiny little...
The elephant laughed at the lions voice, but his was no better!
He stretched his trunk to trumpet, out came a HISS instead!Snake gets upset, discovering the Elephant's hiss."Listen." But out of his mouth came a very loud SQUAWK!
The parrot, recognizing that the snake had his squawk, suddenly wondered what he had.
Parrot took a deep breath, opened his beak, and out came a ground-shaking TRUMPET!
All of the animals become upset - upset and confused. Giraffe, normally with no voice, waits quietly until prompted by the other animals to try out his voice.
So Giraffe stretched out his long neck, opened his mouth, took a big breath, and...coCk-a-doodle-dooooo!
The magic only lasts for one day, though. By the next morning, the jungle rooster is back at his job, greeting a new day!

This is an awesome book and is sure to get children laughing! The part that makes it even better are the pop-up illustrations that show the animals in action! Definitely worth sharing!

Andreae, Giles.
Giraffes Can't Dance.
Orchard Books.

Every year, the jungle dance in Africa has Gerald the Giraffe in a panic.
And this year when the day arrive
Poor Gerald felt so sad,
Because when it came to dancing
He was really very bad.
The animals all step up for their chance on the dance floor...
The watrhogs started waltzing
And the rhinos rock 'n' rolled
The lions danced a tango
Which was elegant and bold.

The chimps all did a cha-cha
With a very latin feel,
And eight baboons then teamed up
For a splendid Scottish reel.
When it's Gerald's turn and he gets chuckled at, rather than letting it bog him down, it makes him more determined to be successful at his dance. Suffice it to say, with a little assistance from some other jungle creatures, Gerald is very successful and has a very powerful message for readers.
Then he raised his head and looked up
At the moon and stars above.
"We all can dance," he said,
"When we find music that we love."
I love this book, but even more than the book, I love the message that Gerald passed on to readers. Books with a strong message are one of the reasons that I love reading so much! I think the message is quite clear and children will understand it. However, it might take a discussion to ensure that they're really "getting" the message!

Giraffes Can't Dance Lesson Plan

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to Amazon.com.

Monday, June 29, 2009

It's Hurricane Season!

June 1st marked the start of the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf Hurricane Season. It runs through November 30. For more information, visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.

I have four books up for review today, one non-fiction book and three realistic-fiction works. All of them are very much appropriate for sharing with children who grow up along the U.S. coastal areas and are likely to live through hurricanes. They are also appropriate for sharing with children as a way to show them how different weather patterns impact different areas of the United States.

Cole, Joanna.
The Magic School Bus: Inside a Hurricane.
Scholastic, Inc.

As the students in Ms. Frizzle's class embark on yet another of their "field trips," to the weather station, readers are sure to learn a great deal of true information about hurricanes:
  • why hurricanes have names
  • what time of the year is considered "hurricane season"
  • how tropical storms turn into hurricanes
  • the reasons that hurricane winds blow in circles
  • how big a hurricane is
  • speed of winds during a hurricane
  • the quiet inside the eye of the hurricane
  • how hurricanes travel
  • what part of the hurricane is the strongest
  • how tornadoes and hurricanes are alike
  • and the future of hurricanes
I love The Magic School Bus books because children are learning true information while it seems as though they're just reading any other story because of the field trips taking place! I've used them a few times in the past in the classroom alongside the videos and children love them!

Lakin, Patricia.
The Millbrook Press, Inc.

Spending August at a cottage along the coast is a little girl's favorite thing to do. She enjoys swinging on the swing her dad hangs from a branch, having picnics under the tree and diving into the cool, calm water of the bay. However, the memories of this summer are likely to be a bit different from summers past. Just a few days after they arrive, Hurricane Bob also makes an appearance, ripping the beach apart, splitting houses in two, tearing down trees and knocking out power. This summer will likely be spent helping summer neighbor rebuild.

The story very vividly captures the emotions faced when going through a hurricane and depicts perfectly the damage that can be caused by such a storm. I think this is a great book to introduce children to hurricanes (at least the damage that can be caused), although it doesn't go into great detail about the storm itself. I enjoyed reading it!

Parent/Teacher Guide for Hurricane!

Wiesner, David.
Clarion Books.
Guided Reading Level: N

Two young brothers put their imaginations to work after a hurricane passes through and downs one of two elm trees that stood in the corner of their backyard. Rather than being depressed by the storm and the lack of power, they make the best of a bad situation, allowing their imaginations to run wild and believe all the cool things that the tree could act as.
David fearlessly led the expedition into the very heart of the jungle, stalking the mighty leopard.
That afternoon they rode the seven seas with George at the helm, while David searched the horizon for pirate ships.
All the next day and the day after that they journeyed to the stars and beyond.
The book is quite clever because it takes a bad situation and shows children that somehow, some way they can make the best of it! I think this would be a perfect read for a rainy summer day!

Demas, Corinne.
Marshall Cavendish.
Guided Reading Level: L

Margo helps her mother and father prepare for Hurricane Bob - pulling the clean clothes from the clothesline, filling the bathtub with water (they have an electric pump for their well), picking all of the vegetables from the garden, even helping her father secure Allegro (the family sail boat). We then watch as the storm hits land and the damage that is done on the property and along the shore line.

Although this is a fictional story, it is based on Demas' family's experience when Hurricane Bob hit the coast of Cape Cod in August of 1991. The book is perfect for families living along the coast, as children will relate to the events and preparation leading up to an impending hurricane and will also be able to relate to the experience of living through a hurricane.

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to Amazon.com.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Summer Reading Series - Week 1

Each Saturday or Sunday, for the duration of the summer, I'm going to try to post my weekly picks for summer reading! The books will be random - sometimes children's picture books, sometimes middle-grade, sometimes YA, sometimes adult.

My recommendations will not just be anything that I have read through the week that doesn't fit my daily themed reviews... instead, I will try to recommend literature that I believe will touch the reader(s) in at least one of several different ways...
  1. Make a difference in their life.
  2. Allow them to appreciate and openly accept the differences between themselves and the characters within.
  3. Allow the reader to make a text-to-self connection to their everyday lives.
  4. Introduce readers to new topics.
I have two selections for this week, both YA and I hope you'll enjoy reading them!

Ockler, Sarah.
Twenty Boy Summer.
June 1, 2009.
Little Brown Young Readers.

From Amazon.com:
"Don't worry, Anna. I'll tell her, okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it."
"Promise me? Promise you won't say anything?"
"Don't worry." I laughed. "It's our secret, right?"
According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy ever day, there's a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there's something she hasn't told Frankie---she's already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie's older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

I wasn't sure what to expect going in to this book. Would it be too much? Promote promiscuity amongst teenagers? Would the death of Frankie's brother, Matt, be portrayed realistically? I think Sarah Ockler did an incredible job of showing the emotions - rage, anger, upset, confusion, self-blame, guilt of moving on - of those dealing with the death of Matt and its impact on their daily lives. Alongside the emotions of teenagers dealing with death, I could see teenager girls who are spending their "dream" summer on the beach partaking in such activities. While I don't condone the ways in which Anna and Frankie deal with their grief, I feel that the life of teenage girls today is accurately portrayed and that this book will have a great deal of appeal to them.

Dessen, Sarah.
Along for the Ride.
June 16, 2009.

From BN.com:

It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.

A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.

Oh, it's been so long since I've read anything by Sarah Dessen... reading Along for the Ride makes me want to head out to the local library and get my hands on as many books of hers as I can! There's nothing quite like the feeling of relating whole-heartedly with the main character of the book. I could easily compare myself to Auden... at the beginning of the book anyways - someone who never quite made it into the "girlfriend" circle in high school. However, unlike Auden, I never really came full circle. Thanks to Sarah Dessen, I was able to live vicariously through Auden for the three days I took in reading Along for the Ride! The book was so wonderfully written that I actually felt like I was there, walking alongside Auden on her adventures this summer before starting college. This is an incredible read for teenage girls! In recommending this, I can only hope someone can enjoy it half as much as I did!

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to Amazon.com.

Weekly Blog Plan, June 29 - July 3

Here's the weekly blog plan! Again, please remember this is subject to change and is dependent upon whether or not my materials come in from the library as planned. I realize that this may fall too late for you to use in your classroom this year, but the activities will definitely swing from year-t0-year! If you see something you really want to incorporate into your classroom, leave me a comment on this post or send me an e-mail, kateh12783@hotmail.com. I'd be glad to provide you with the links I have, if nothing more!

Monday, June 29 - Caribbean and Gulf Hurricane Season
  • Hurricane, David Wiesner
  • The Magic School Bus Inside a Hurricane, Joanna Cole
  • Hurricane!, Corinne Demas
  • Hurricane!, Patricia Lakin
Tuesday, June 30 - A Giraffe's Incredible Journey Anniversary
  • Giraffes Can't Dance, Giles Andreae
  • Chee-Lin: A Giraffe's Journey, James Rumford
  • The Giraffe Who Cock-a-doodle-doo'd, Keith Faulkner
Wednesday, July 1 - Anniversary of the First U.S. Zoo
  • Welcome to the Zoo, Alison Jay
  • Twas the Day Before Zoo Day, Catherine Ipcizade
  • Never, Ever Shout in a Zoo, Karma Wilson
Thursday, July 2 - Jean Craighead George's Birthday
  • Morning, Noon and Night'
  • Look to the North: A Wolf Pup Diary
  • Luck: The Story of a Sandhill Crane
  • Elephant Walk
Friday, July 3 - Happy 4th of July!
  • Apple Pie Fourth of July, Janet S. Wong
  • Happy 4th of July, Jenny Sweeney, Leslie Kimmelman
  • Happy Birthday America!, Marsha Wilson Chall
  • Happy Birthday America!, Mary Pope Osborne
If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to Amazon.com.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dork Diaries Giveaway!!!

I've got a giveaway today to go along with my review and author interview (of sorts)! So, Welcome to Rachel Renee Russell as part of her
Dork Diaries: Tales from a NOT-SO-Fabulous Life
blog tour!

Russell, Rachel Renee.
Dork Diaries: Tales from a NOT-SO-Fabulous Life.
June 2009.
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.

Comparable to Diary of a Whimpy Kid series or even Max Quigley: Technically Not a Bully, Dork Diaries: Tales of a NOT-SO-Fabulous Life is a new hit for pre-teen girls! It's only been in stores, available for purchase since June 2, but already Dork Diaries has landed on the New York Times Best Seller list twice!
New diary so Nikki can spill about all of it...And spill she does! The diary follows Nikki on this new adventure in her life over the course of about two months.
  • She's throw into a new private school (thanks to her dad's contract as an exterminator which allowed her free tuition), which she's not too thrilled with.
  • She's put up against a new mean girl and winds up friends with the not-so-cool kids (who eventually turn out as her new best friends, so they must be pretty cool)!
  • And her new crush happens to be the crush of about every girl in her class...
The book is almost (but not quite) too perfect for pre-teen girls - allowing them to see that there are other girls out there experiencing the same emotions as themselves. I've got a 12 year old step-cousin and this book is definitely going to be lent to her in the next month to see if she enjoyed it as much as I did!

Blog Tour Interview

And now, to help promote her new hit book, Rachel Renee Russell is stopping here, at Katie's Literature Lounge as part of her blog tour and I've landed a great interview with her, so enjoy reading it!

As an attorney, describe the day you knew you wanted to write a children's book?
Actually, I wrote and illustrated my first picture book for my younger brothers when I was about 14. I started writing again as a hobby about 3 years ago. My family and friends thought my work was good and encouraged me to pursue publication. Even though I enjoy helping people as a consumer bankruptcy attorney, nothing can beat lounging around in my pajamas, sipping lemon tea, listening to my favorite music while visiting the wacky world of Dork Diaries.

How did the idea of Dork Diaries and your Nikki character transpire?
Dork Diaries is actually based on some of the real life experiences of my youngest daughter, whose real name is also Nikki. She gave me permission to name my Dork Diaries character after her. The early draft of the book was a fantasy and contained a fairy godmother. But, the main character's voice was so compelling my that my literary agent, Dan Lazer, and I decided the book would be stronger with Nikki finding a solution to her problems on her own. I was also very encouraged about the potential of the idea and manuscript when the first 20 pages of an early draft placed in a YA writing competition with very favorable reviews from the judges.

What is one event you experienced in 8th grade that has had a lasting impact on your life?
In 7th grade, I was totally obsessed with trying to get accepted by the CCP's (cool, cute and popular) kids at my school and they all thought I was a dork. It was probably my most miserable year in school. However, by the start of 8th grade, I was sick and tired of trying to fit in where I was not wanted. 8th grade was the year I learned to actually like myself and accept the fact that I was not a CCP and would probably NEVER be one. I still struggle with this, even as an adult. If people and things make me feel sad and inadequate, like in 7th grade, it's unacceptable. I try to keep my upbeat and optimistic 8th grade mind set.

Nikki has just walked across the stage from her High School graduation. How has her life changed since her time in 8th grade?
Nikki has learned to love herself and not base her self worth on the opinions and expectations of others. She is attending a major university on a full 4-year scholarship. Chloe and Zoey surprised her with tickets to the Tyra Banks show for Senior Skip Day. And, she went to prom with Brandon :-).

Nikki's Purse Giveaway!!!

And now... what you've been waiting for! Dork Diaries: Tales from a NOT-SO-Fabulous Life is an absolute must have for pre-teen girls... and lucky for you, Rachel Renee Russell and her publisher at Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing are kind enough to give not only a copy of Dork Diaries: Tales from a NOT-SO-Fabulous Life away, but the entire "Nikki's Purse" set-up. Would your daughter not love to receive this as a special Welcome-to-Summer gift? Heck, this might even pursued her to jump start that summer reading program!

This is an picture of what you'll be receiving (the actual purse and contents may vary, but this is what I got in mine! Twizzlers, AXE deoderant spray, Skittles Lipsmacker, TicTacs, BonBons nail polish, "Everyone's Wild About Me" pin, a bandana, a glitzy pen, Love's Baby Soft, Orbit gum, and a copy of Dork Diaries: Tales of a NOT-SO-Fabulous Life all packed inside the little purse!

Rules To enter the Giveaway:
  1. Be a resident of the United States.
  2. Leave a comment on this post, being sure to include an e-mail address where you can be contacted.
  3. On your comment, describe an event in your life (between the ages of 9-13) that made your life seem less than fabulous!
To enter, you must follow those three steps by 11:59PM, EST on Thursday, July 2. Winner will be drawn from random.org and will be posted on Friday, July 3.

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to Amazon.com.

Happy Birthday to Charlotte Zolotow

Happy Birthday to Charlotte Zolotow!!!

Zolotow, Charlotte.
If You Listen.
Harper & Row, Publishers.

A small girl, missing her father, questions her mother about how to know someone loves you when they're not there with you. Her mother tries to explain to her all the little things that take place in the day that make you realize that even though someone isn't present, they're watching over you in other ways.
"Or," her mother went on, "it's like
staring at the mountains
on a hot summer day and nothing is moving, not a leaf or a bird or a blade of grass,
when suddenly a flash of lightening
streaks across the sky
and you hear the thunder behind it
coming close.
I think this book would be perfect for children who have family members who they don't see frequently enough - parents who are deployed in the military, or parents whose work takes them away from their children for extended periods of time. Despite it's near 30 year in print, this book could act as if it were published for the first time today, ensuring that it will be appropriate to share with children for years to come without fear of being outdated!

Zolotow, Charlotte.
The Seashore Book.
HarperCollins Publishers.
Guided Reading Level: O

A little boy who has never been to the seashore spends a day with his mother visualizing the sights that they'd see, the sounds that they'd hear if there were truly on the beach. The book is soooo good for visualization that you almost couldn't tell that the two were not at the beach!

This book would be perfect for teaching children the technique of visualization to be used for reading comprehension. It would also work as a summertime read-aloud!

Visualization and Reading Comprehension:
Other Books to Teach Visualization:
  • Fireflies, Julie Brinkloe
  • All the Places to Love, Patricia MacLachlan
Zolotow, Charlotte.
William's Doll.
Harper Trophy.
Guided Reading Level: L

All William really wants is a doll, but to his family, that's not something a boy should be in possession of. His brother tells him not to be creepy. His dad races out to the nearest toy store and bring home a basketball and net. William proves that he can play basketball. He even succumbs to playing with the train set his father bought. However, he's just not content without a doll. Grandma to the rescue!
But his father was upset.
"He's a boy!" he said
to William's grandmother.
"He has a basketball
and an electric train
and a workbench
to build things with.
Why does he need a doll?"
William's grandmother smiled.
"He needs it," she said,
"to hug
and to cradle
and to take to the park
so that
when he's a father
like you,
he'll know how to
take care of his baby
and feed him
and love him
and bring him
the things he wants,
like a doll
so that he can
practice being
a father."
I personally think a sweet message is being passed on to boys - that it's okay to enjoy playing with dolls. After all, Grandma's got a point! William has to learn from someone... and a doll allows the practice so that later on in life, William will be a perfect father!

Lesson Plans/Reading Activities:
If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to Amazon.com.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Literacy Workstation #2/Integrated Thematic Unit - Eric Carle

Eric Carle is an amazing author and illustrator! Today is his birthday, and I've spent the last two days working tirelessly on creating a one to two week integrated thematic unit author study on Carle. I really hope you all enjoy it... the time and effort spent on this should be enough of a review for you all! The books are wonderful! Love them!

There are 8 books that are specifically used/referred to throughout the unit... however, I would include as many titles as possible in a classroom library for the duration of the unit! The planning sheet that I used is adapted from Kristen at Kristen's Kindergarten, although many of the stations have been modified/changed. Enjoy and I'd love to hear what you think of the activities!

Download Links for the Eric Carle Integrated Thematic Unit:
If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to Amazon.com.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fairy Day

The official holiday for fairy collectors, believers, artisans and the young at heart. Celebrated around the world by those who love all things fairy. Join in on the magic with these three wonderful books!

Kane, Tracy.
Fairy Houses.
Light Beams Publishing.

Young Kristen is off to visit the coast of Maine for a week. Her parents promise there's a surprise to be had and Kristen's eager to go along! She even begins to guess what the surprise might be...
"Is it the lighthouse?"

"Those silly sandpipers on the beach?"

"The seals?"

"Our cottage?"
However, it's not until much later when they when the family goes for a walk in the woods that Kristen stumbles upon a sign that reads,
You may build
houses small
and hidden for
the fairies,
but please do
not use living
or artificial
The surprise awaiting Kristen is the opportunity to build fairy houses and even spot the fairies!She quickly sets to work, gathering materials to construct a fairy house of her own but is quickly disappointed when the vacation has nearly passed and she has yet to see a fairy. However, on the last day, just before she leaves for home, sure enough, the fairies slowly begin to appear!

The message is clear from this book - the key to building a fairy house is to use natural materials that are found within the forest... however, one should not take living materials for use in the fairy houses.Of all the houses here, the animals have chosen yours to visit. You have treated the woods with care and respect.Children, girls especially will love this story! It even comes with several pages full of tips about building your own fairy house! You can also check out some similar books by this same author as well as a video, all linked below.

Also by Tracy Kane:
Barker, Cicely Mary.
How to Find Flower Fairies.
Penguin Young Readers Group.

This book is absolutely beautiful! It's a pop-up book that shows children where to look if they're trying to locate flower fairies... the pop-up illustrations are such that you actually feel as though you're in the forest! It's amazing, and if you have a daughter who loves the concept of fairies, you must get this from the library or splurge and buy it for her!!!

Cicey Mary Barker has a bunch of other fairy-related books as well:
Shannon, David.
Alice the Fairy.
Blue Sky Press.

It's getting late, and I've lost my steam... so this is quoted from the book jacket!
Alice the Fairy uses her magic wand to change frogs into princes and things like that. She can also make leaves fall from trees and turn oatmeal into cake. Sometimes she can even disappear! Being a fairy is very useful - even if your spells don't always come out right. But best of all, you get to use your imagination! And what could be more fun?
This book is perfect for children today, especially those in a classroom! More and more I've been noticing that children seem to be lacking creativity and the ability to imagine things. I guess as a teacher, we have to teach them how to use their imagination... put them into situations that force them to be creative and use their minds! This book would definitely be appropriate for doing that!

Lesson Plans/Reading Activities:
Other Fairy Activities for Kids:
If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to Amazon.com.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Visiting Author - Welcome to Toni Buzzeo!

I was approached (technologically speaking!) by Emilie Bandy, Associate Online Marketing Manager for Penguin Young Readers Group about hosting the second stop of a Blog Tour for Toni Buzzeo. Eagerly, I accepted. It's an honor to be approached as a blog host!

The first part of this second stop features a review (by me) of just one of Toni's many books, Dawdle Duckling. The second part is complements of Toni, herself, and focuses on how nature inspires Toni's writing, paying special attention to the titles with animals - specifically, Dawdle Duckling, Ready or Not Dawdle Duckling, The Sea Chest, and Little Loon and Papa. Toni also shares how her writing of children's books would have been different had she stayed in Detroit (her childhood home), rather than experiencing what she has living in Maine. Enjoy!

Buzzeo, Toni.
Dawdle Duckling.
Dial Books for Young Readers.

This was my first experience reading a book written by Toni Buzzeo. I was definitely impressed and will certainly be picking up more of her books in the future!

The tale of these four baby ducklings and their mother is perfect to share with the adventurous child, perhaps even a mischievous one! Mama duck, decked out in her straw hat with purple tie takes her baby ducklings out for a paddle in the bay. Three of the ducklings behave perfectly and following along with her. A fourth, more mischievous one, doesn't follow along quite as quickly, choosing rather to participate in more interesting activities!
but the fourth little duckling
dawdles and dreams,
preens and plays,
splashes and spins,
dunks and dips,
looks -
Pretty soon, Mother spots danger just beyond the cattails
Look out!"
Three of her babies quickly scurry to her side and jump on her back, but the fourth little duckling is too busy exploring... until he hears
"Quack! Quack! Quack!"
That's all he needs to hear, before leaping aboard his Mama's back with his siblings! At last, they're safe from danger, all together!

Perhaps young children will learn from this that it's best to listen to their Mama, for she is aware of her surroundings and wants what is best for her children! This would definitely make for a great bedtime story or read-aloud!

Toni Buzzeo's Other Books for Children:
Professional Books by Toni Buzzeo:
And now, thanks to Toni for sharing the wealth of information below!

I am lucky enough to have at least two close writing friends --- and one husband -- who have, as Howard Gardener names it, "naturalist intelligence." They are passionate about the natural world, prefer to explore it and learn about it above any other activities, and, in the case of my two writing friends are deeply connect to animals.

While I love the natural world, especially the thirty-three acres of white pine forest and two-cleared acres of lawns, orchard, and gardens surrounding my Colonial farmhouse here in Maine, I probably don't qualify as a naturalist. No matter! Nature was one of the siren calls that first drew me to Main, and ever since, I have collected images and experiences that creep into my stories and fill them with the natural world that surrounds me.

It's no wonder, actually. I grew up surrounded by concrete in metropolitan Detroit. Other than the tiny woods two blocks down and three streets over from my small, gray brick house, my experience of nature was limited to the elms lining the curbs of our paved streets and the small grass-covered backyards separated by chain link fences. Maine, in contrast, is a nature wonderland - with its majestic mountains and crashing ocean -- and provides me so many experiences upon which to base my stories.

For example, Dawdle Duckling, the frustratingly imaginative little quacker featured in
Dawdle Duckling and Ready or Not, Dawdle Duckling, is based on a born-and-raised Maine mallard duckling my brother-in-law Mike saw swimming along the Atlantic shores of Phippsburg, Maine. Mike, an Arizonan, snuck out early one morning at Rock Gardens Inn to capture some Main photos. Snapping away, Mike was particularly charmed by a mother Mallard he spotted swimming along the shore with a line of little ducklings paddling right behind her. Next, he heard Mama quacking in alarm and captured photos of all her little ducklings jumping up on her back and riding away in safety. All but her littlest duckling, that is. Mike says that the littlest duckling paid no attention at all. Instead, he dawdled and dreamed, preened and played, splashed and spun, dunked and dipped before he finally looked and LEAPED on board Mama's back.

What children's author could have failed to see the picture book waiting to be written in that story?

Of course, any close reader of
Dawdle Duckling as it was published will quickly realize that Mama and her babies have been transported from Maine in the pages of this book. Not only does the genteel Mama Duck don a straw sunhat tied beneath her chin with a purple chiffon scarf and the ducklings sport straw boaters, but that's a CROCODILE threatening in the water nearby. It's great fun to talk to students in more northerly states about whether the story, as it is illustrated by Margaret Spengler, could actually take place in Maine. In this case, my text was less than specific about the threatening animal and so the actual setting is revealed in the illustrations - somewhere in the swampy southeastern United States. That makes it a wonderful opportunity to teach visual literacy and inference to even the youngest readers.

We also talk about that original story as it unfolded on the Maine shore. What could have frightened that Mama duck and caused her to quack in alarm? Was it a fox on the shore? Was it a snapping turtle in the water? Or was it a heron standing nearby in the reeds?

The ducklings in the Dawdle stories; the loons, bears, moose, and beaver in
Little Loon and Papa, and the settings of my two lighthouse picture books, The Sea Chest and the forthcoming A Lighthouse Christmas (Dial 2010), all grew from my love of the beautiful natural world that surrounds me here in Maine.

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to Amazon.com.

Gay and Lesbian Pride Month

Gay and Lesbian Pride Month is observed this month, June 1-30 because on June 28, 1969, the clientele of a gay bar at New York, NY, rioted after the club was raided by the police. President Clinton issued a presidential proclamation for this month in 1999 and 2000.

I know this is a tender topic among many, but I decided to take the leap and feature children's books that make the topic a feature. As more and more states are legalizing same-sex marriages and/or legalizing benefits to same-sex couples, we need to recognize that there are children in the United States that are living with same-sex parents.

If not for your own piece of mind, take into consideration the children growing up in these diverse families... don't they deserve the same respect and understanding as your own? I'm sure that you also agree that your children should be respectful of those who come from different backgrounds than their own, and the only way they can be respectful and appreciative of differences is to expose them to the differences. This is just one way that children can be familiarized with these unique families.

Only two of the books I had ordered for this post came in... I was disappointed with one, Uncle Bobby's Wedding and so, decided to just do a review of And Tango Makes Three. I whole-heartedly love this book and have even ordered a copy of it for myself!

Richardson, Justin and Peter Parnell.
And Tango Makes Three.
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Guided Reading Level: Q

Based on a true story about two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo, And Tango Makes Three is a very sweet story that shows children that it is okay to be accepting of diversity and situations different from your own. That central theme, coupled with the all of the recent legislation regarding same-sex marriages and civil unions, which are making these new family dynamics a reality in many districts, this is definitely a book to include in a classroom library!

We follow different families at the zoo - monkey families, red panda bear families, toad families, toucan families and cotton-top tamarind families and even penguin families. However, one penguin family at the zoo is different than the other families... at an age when the boy penguins typically started to show an interest in the girl penguins, Roy and Silo stand out from the other penguins. Instead of liking girls, these two boy penguins begin showing an interest in each other. We watch as their relationship develops (in child-friendly ways, of course) and as they eventually are able to start a family of their own. Children will be shown to be accepting of these differing families by the positive way in which the public reacts as they stream into the zoo to visit baby Tango and her two daddies, Roy and Silo.

I will definitely share this book with my own children someday. I have a brother who is gay and I want my future children to be very accepting of this way of life, rather than looking at it as a negative way of life. In using the book in a classroom, I'd have to take a slightly different approach. Sadly, not all parents would be open to their children listening to a story that features this topic. The book could not solely be used as a read-aloud in a classroom unless perhaps a gay or lesbian couple had a child in the class and wanted the classmates to understand and accept their child. The book would also fit into a unit on families.

What I enjoyed the most about this book was that it showed that gay penguins were no different from the other penguins in their zoo pen. It's definitely worthy of a spot on the bookshelf, awaiting the perfect teachable moment!

Lesson Plans/Reading Activities:
If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to Amazon.com.

Monday, June 22, 2009

National Rose Month

National Rose Month takes place from June 1-30 to recognize American-grown roses, our national floral emblem. America's favorite flower is grown in all 50 states, and more than 1.2 billion fresh cut roses are sold retail each year.
-The Teacher's Calendar, 2008-2009

Brisson, Pat.
Wanda's Roses.
Boyds Mill Press.

Wanda is one little girl who makes a big difference in her community! She takes matters into her own hand to do her part to clean up an abandoned city lot after finding what she believes to be a rosebush hidden beneath the loads of garbage. Wanda works to no end to clean up the lot where she has discovered the rosebush - hauling trash to the curb to give the rosebush fresh air and more sun that will help the rosebush bloom. She even waters the rosebush every day after school to be sure it has enough water.

However, the rosebush never truly blooms, but Wanda doesn't let this bring down her spirits. Instead, she invites all of the neighbors who helped her to clean up the lot for tea and muffins.
Please come
For Tea and Muffins
In Wanda's
Rose Garden
at 9
The neighbors, worrying that Wanda will be disappointed if the roses haven't bloomed, brain-storm together and come up with a plan that goes alongside Wanda's to benefit the entire community. Saturday morning, they each arrive with a rosebush in hand to contribute to Wanda's Rose Garden, which has miraculously bloomed (with paper roses Wanda has made and tied to the rosebush with ribbons)!

This book would be perfect to get children thinking about what they can do to make their community a better place... it might also serve as a perfect introduction to a school-wide courtyard that the students would be in charge of maintaining!

Lesson Plan/Reading Activity
Johnson, Angela.
A Sweet Smell of Roses.
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

A young girl and her even younger sister, Minnie, get caught up in all the action surrounding Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movements. They're so interested they slip out of the family house while Mama's still sleeping to participate in one of the marches that's happening in their community.

Throughout the story, the roses are a central symbol of one freedom that isn't withheld from the African-American population - "a sweet smell of roses." Minnie and her older sister smell this sweet smell as they sneak out of the house, as well as when they return home again, while they wait for Dr. King to speak, as they march past people who are screaming, shouting and saying,
"You are not right.
Equality can't be yours."
I think this book would be perfect for teaching children about the Civil Rights Movement. It also would be perfect when trying to show children about the concept of symbolism, as the smell of roses symbolizes freedom.

Lesson Plans/Reading Activities:
Lobel, Arnold.
The Rose in My Garden.
Greenwillow Books.
Guided Reading Level: M

This book, using a technique known as cumulative sentence,which is perfect for helping early readers predict what will happen next. The technique itself involves the story building on a pattern. It starts with one person, place, thing or event - in this case a rose in the garden. On each page, a new object is added to the garden but each previous item is repeated.
This is the rose in my garden.

This is the bee
That sleeps on the rose in my garden.

These are the hollyhocks high above ground,
That gives shade to the bee
That sleeps on the rose in my garden.

These are the marigolds orange and round,
That stand by the hollyhocks high above ground,
That give shade to the bee
That sleeps on the rose in my garden...
The story continues on, following along this same format throughout the entire length. I really enjoyed the story and it turns out kind of funny, as the bee causes a bit of mischief in the end. Definitely worth sharing! I've even turned the book in a listening activity for children... you can check that download out below

Lesson Plans/Reading Activities:
Winter, Jeanette.
September Roses.
Farrar Straus Giroux.

This book is a wonderful tribute to 9/11. Jeanette Winter captures one moment of those days following the terrorist attacks that impacted so much of America. Two women, commercial rose growers from South Africa, become stranded on September 11, as the Agriflowers & Floritech Expo USA they were planning to attend in New York is called off due to the terrorist attacks. This story portrays a true event of just one of the memorials that was set up following the attacks against the World Trade Center towers. Rather than letting the roses go to waste, the two women arrange them in two rectangle in Union Square to symbolize the two World Trade Center Towers that were destroyed.

The book is incredible because it not only deals with a very tender subject in U.S. history, but it does so in a way that shows the positive and the good in people at a time when our nation felt so uneasy and untrusting. Definitely worth sharing... and if not as a part of National Rose Month, then definitely keep this title in mind come September!

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to Amazon.com.

Non-Fiction Monday: President Obama

I've had these hanging around for a while now waiting for a review, but never had the time that I wanted to create a learning activity to go along with at least one of them. Well, this weekend, I made time during my super-rainy Saturday, so here goes...

Brill, Marlene Targ.
Barack Obama: President for a New Era.
Lerner Publications Company.

I really enjoyed reading this biography of President Obama! I'm not typically one to pick up a biography, but this one has appealed to me from the start, maybe because I never really followed Obama very much and knew very little about him or his life. I think children would be interested in this book as well, based on the huge interest I saw from children towards Obama in the months leading up the the election and immediately after his election to Presidency.

The book introduces readers to virtually all aspects of President Obama's life - his family, his childhood years spent in Indonesia, his school years, college, his beginning work in the public service sector, his "second" family in Kenya, his time in public office and eventually his election as President. Having been broken into sections, the book is very easy to read and allows readers to see exactly the orders of the events that led to Barack Obama being elected President of the United States.

This book is perfect for the upper-elementary (I'd say 4th grade and up) or middle school classroom. The text itself is quite simple and easy to understand, but due to it's length and non-fiction writing, I think that it would take older children to read and understand this book.

Lesson Plan/Reading Activities:

During my student teaching experience in a 4th grade classroom, I worked alongside my cooperating teacher to implement learning contracts with the students. We implemented these because of the students lack of responsibility in turning in morning work. The learning contracts held students responsible for their daily/weekly assignments in two ways:
  1. In order to participate in recess, students had to have completed each day's morning work assignments, consisting of a Math POD (problem of the day), a DOL (daily oral language), and a measurement activity.
  2. In addition to daily morning work, students had to complete 3 of 5 activities of choice by lunchtime on Fridays. These activities included math, spelling, science/social studies, ELA/reading, and a miscellaneous category. These were meant to be completed during any free-time the students had throughout the course of the day (after morning work, during snack, during lunch, if they finished another assignment before the rest of the class, etc.).
Each activity was given points on a scale of 1-3, depending on the work produced. At the end of the week, students received "Dollars for Scholars," which they could bank from week to week and use to purchase "Tools for School," from the class store (pencils, pens, erasers, a snack, a ruler, etc.).

The activities for the learning contracts switched off every two weeks and each "station" had 2-3 activities that could be completed. All of the activities were in some way related to the 4th grade curriculum. Students really enjoyed the concept, as they were being held accountable for their school work, while at the same time having a little bit of freedom regarding what they were learning!

The activity that I created to go along with Barack Obama: President for a New Era is one that could be included in the social studies/science station. The activity packet can be downloaded here.

Ignatius, Adi.
President Obama: The Path to the White House.
Time Inc., Home Entertainment.

This is another incredible Barack Obama biography! However, this one is for either the teacher or the parents - it falls a bit above the level of reading for children... at least of the age I focus on!

My favorite part of the book is the photographs, but then again I love looking at photographs. Bits and pieces of the book would be appropriate for children and they'd probably enjoy the photos too!

This book has definitely found a home on the coffee table at my house!

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to Amazon.com.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Weekly Blog Plan, June 22-26

Here's the weekly blog plan! Again, please remember this is subject to change and is dependent upon whether or not my materials come in from the library as planned. I realize that this may fall too late for you to use in your classroom this year, but the activities will definitely swing from year-t0-year! If you see something you really want to incorporate into your classroom, leave me a comment on this post or send me an e-mail, kateh12783@hotmail.com. I'd be glad to provide you with the links I have, if nothing more!

Monday, June 22 - National Rose Month
  • Wanda's Roses, Pat Brisson
  • A Sweet Smell of Roses, Angela Johnson
  • The Rose in My Garden, Arnold Lobel
  • September Roses, Jeanette Winter
Tuesday, June 23 - Gay and Lesbian Pride Month
  • Uncle Bobby's Wedding, Sarah S. Brannen
  • Molly's Family, Nancy Garden
  • And Tango Makes Three, Peter Parnell
Wednesday, June 24 - Fairy Day
  • Alice the Fairy, David Shannon
  • Fairy Houses, Tracy Kane
  • How to Find Flower Fairies, Cicely Mary Barker
Thursday, June 25 - Eric Carle's Birthday
  • The Very Lonely Firefly
  • The Very Quiet Cricket
  • The Very Busy Spider
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Friday, June 26 - Charlotte Zolotow's Birthday
  • William's Doll
  • The Storm Book
  • Sheashore Book
  • If You Listen
If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to Amazon.com.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Another Birthday...

Today is Elvira Woodruff's Birthday!

I've read several of Elvira Woodruff's books in the past and have reviewed one of his books here before. Elvira is a wonderful, wonderful author, who shares with readers stories that teach what I believe to be very valuable lessons. These 3 do nothing less!

Woodruff, Elvira.
Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O'Hara.
Alfred A. Knopf.

Darcy, the only girl in family of seven children has an ability that the rest of her family seems to lack - the ability to notice the "small beauties" in life - a dew-covered spiderweb, cloud castles, , a buttercup flower, a pebble shaped like a heart, a butterfly's wing. She's forever collecting these "small beauties" in the hem of her skirt, pulling a few stitches loose for each item.

We watch as Darcy continues to collect these objects while the family is experiencing the impact of the Great Potato Famine, which struck Ireland in mid-1800's. The O'Hara's try to overcome their loss of food and source of income by continually replanting their potato crops. However, their efforts just aren't enough and soon the family is facing eviction from their house if they don't pay the Crown's agent the rent. Unable to do so, the family has little else to do but sit and watch as the agent returns and torches the family home. Darcy quickly grabs one of Granny's rosary beads (the chain was broken upon falling on the floor). The next morning, before they prepare to set sail to America, Darcy grabs one last special stone from the ruins of what had, at one time, been her home and tucks it into the hem of her dress.

After a week in America, the O'Hara's gather to talk about their new life. Darcy contributes to the conversation by loosening the remaining stitches of her hem, allowing all of the "small beauties" to be released to the floor. Together, Darcy leads the family in a remembrance ceremony of sorts, allowing memories of their past life in Ireland. These "small beauties" that she was always distracted by allows the family the chance to share deeper memories of who they truly are and where they came from.

The message portrayed to readers in this book is perhaps one of the most important I've found in almost all of the books I have read to date... and, if for some reason, you happen to pass over the message, Elvira sums it up for you,
Author's Note: While Darcy and her family sprung from my imagination, the spark for their story came from my reading about a very real family who was forced to leave Ireland during the famine.
They left County Cork in 1847, sailing first to Canada and then on to America. Sadly, the mother of this family died aboard ship, but her children survived and settled with their father in Michigan. One son, William, went on to marry and have a son of his own called Henry.
This boy loved to tinker with the machines on the farm, and he grew up to become one of the forefathers of American industry. But his family's memories of fleeing the famine were very much a part of who Henry was, despite his success and fame.
Years later, he traveled to Ireland. A millionaire many times over, he could have afforded the most precious of gems - diamonds, rubies, and more. And yet what stone did he choose to ship back to America? A worthless old hearthstone removed from a humble cottage - worthless to some, but priceless to Henry Ford, for it was the very hearthstone that his father's family had gathered around the night before they were to leave Ireland forever.
Henry Ford, whose "horseless carriage," the automobile, changed the landscape of America, understood the importance of family memory. I hope you will too. And just as Darcy did, take the time to notice the small beauties you have all around you. For one day you may find that they are the very memories you treasure most.
Family Activities after sharing Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O'Hara
Woodruff, Elvira.
The Wing Shop.
Holiday House.
Guided Reading Level: M

Longing to return to his "old" house and "old" neighborhood, Matthew wishes for some method of transportation that would take him back to Main Street. He's not yet old enough to drive. He's too young to take a bus. And his mother will only let him walk to the drugstore (not far enough to get back to his house on Main Street). After watching a pigeon, Matthew realizes that a pair of wings would enable him to fly back to Main Street. His new friend, the pigeon, shows him just where to obtain a pair of wings - Featherman's Wing Shop!

Through the process of trying several different pairs of wings - seagull wings, bat wings, airplane wings... Matthew finally comes to the conclusion that "home" is where he and his family are together - it's not just a house or a neighborhood, but where family and memories are made... it can be virtually anywhere.

The Wing Shop is yet another wonderful story by Woodruff! The message here was simple for me to see, and would make this a wonderful book for children who are anxious about or having a hard time coping with a move to a new house/city.

Lesson Plans/Reading Activities:
  1. Look for "wings" on Craigslist, E-Bay or even Amazon.com - make a few purchases.
  2. Hang a few nails somewhere around the house (a basement, garage, playroom, etc).
  3. Each week, after children have completed their chores, "pay" them with a weekly "wing rental."
  4. Each day, encourage the children to be adventurous and with their wings, take a trip to someplace they're interested in (use the internet or non-fiction travel books for a "virtual" trip)!
  5. The scholastic website, linked above as "virtual," is a great activity for kids to keep them involved in learning, reading and writing throughout the summer months. Journaling topics are provided for each "trip" they take! A super cool activity if you ask me... one I'll definitely keep in mind for a classroom!
Woodruff, Elvira.
Can You Guess Where We're Going?
Holiday House.

This book reminds me so much of an activity my mom and dad used to do when my brothers and I were little... they'd take us on mystery trips... about 2 times a month in the summer. They were never "huge" trips - mini-golf, Great Escape, a water park, ice cream, swimming at a local swimming hole - that sort of thing, but it meant so much to us (obviously, as I still remember the "mystery trips" vividly)! They'd put us in the back seat of the car, blindfold us with an old bandanna and off we'd go... we'd have to guess where we were going and even if we guessed right, they wouldn't tell us... we'd find out once we reached our destination!

A young boy spends the day with his grandpa. As the two take of in the car, grandpa makes Jack guess continually where they're going after giving him hints... monkeys, dragons, mountains, knights in shining armor, sharks, turtles, t-rex. At last, they pull in to the parking lot... have you guessed where they're going? That's right... Grandpa took Jack on a trip to the library - where they check out books about all of these topics!

I think this is an incredible way to get children excited about reading... and even visiting the library. Plus, it's practically free (especially if you can walk or ride bikes to the library)! Definitely an activity to try out this summer! I bet it'll get the children reading!

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to Amazon.com.